A final farewell was given to a beloved Tampa Bay priest Wednesday. An estimated 1500 people turned out to the funeral mass for Monsignor Laurence Higgins, despite torrential rains.
Msgr. Higgins founded St. Lawrence Catholic Church & School in Tampa. He spent 60 years in the priesthood, and now leaves a remarkable legacy.
His impact was felt by thousands over his six decades as a priest, working tirelessly in the church and supporting dozens of charities.
"What he strove for reminds us all we are called to make a difference," said Msgr. Michael Muhr, current pastor of St. Lawrence Catholic Church.
That deep devotion was felt by everyone who knew and loved him.
"He's been a great inspiration, helping in my spiritual development and making me a better man and a better husband,"said parishioner John Mangin.
Msgr. Higgins was truly a priest of the people in serving the needy, helping parishioners, and hobnobbing with celebrities and politicians.
"I could go on forever about people he helped, those he counseled in his life. He loved every single person no matter what religion they were. He always had great advice for everybody, and we've lost a wonderful man," said former Tampa mayor and longtime friend of Msgr. Higgins, Dick Greco.
While it is clear Msgr. Higgins will be missed, his lifetime of love and service, will leave a lasting legacy.
"Although he may not physically be with us any longer, we know his spirit and presence, and Christian message of family love, and respect will be everlasting, especially here in the community where he dedicated his life," said Martin Gourley, Msgr. Higgins' nephew.
Higgins died last week at the age of 87. He was a priest from 1958 to 2007 and he held the title of the longest tenure of any priest in the St. Petersburg Diocese. Higgins retired in 2007 as a pastor, however he remained as a pastor emeritus and he continued his work for the poor.